Environment Agency staff have voted overwhelmingly to strike over pay for the first time in the organisation’s 26-year history, says UNISON today (Tuesday).
In the strike vote, 72% of the 2,800 Agency staff balloted by the union across England, including river inspectors, flood forecasting officers, coastal risk management officers and sewage plant attendants, voted to take action.
Earlier in the year staff, who also work on the Thames Barrier, maintain coastal defences, and manage the risk of flooding from rivers, reservoirs and the sea, rejected what they see as an insulting 2% pay offer (plus a £345 one-off payment), according to their union UNISON.
The same ballot also saw 91% of the employees vote for action short of a strike at the Agency.
Low wages over many years have forced large numbers of staff to quit the UK’s key environmental regulator. This has left the Agency struggling to fill vacancies, putting the remaining workforce under intolerable pressure, says UNISON.
UNISON head of environment Donna Rowe-Merriman said: “Inflation is now even higher than when the ballot opened. In the face of a derisory wage offer that’s way below the cost of living, it’s not hard to see why so many have voted to strike.
“Environment Agency workers take great pride in the support they give to communities and businesses across England. But they’ve been taken for granted for long enough and feel it’s now time to take a stand.
“Persistent government cuts to the Agency’s funding have squeezed budgets and pay rates, prompting experienced staff to up sticks and head elsewhere. Now talk of difficult decisions and caps on public sector wages next year could prove the final straw.
“Climate change means our weather is becoming more severe. It’s more important now than ever that the government shows it understands the vital work of the Agency and provides the means for an inflation-proofed pay rise for this essential group of workers.“